COVID-19 Latest: Opening of Convention Center Field Hospital Delayed

3 hours ago

This post has local news on the coronavirus pandemic from Tuesday, July 21. If you have a news tip or question, email us at news@KUT.org.

Field hospital opening at Austin Convention Center delayed 

The field hospital at the Austin Convention Center was originally set to open today, but that has now been pushed back. Speaking at Tuesday's Travis County Commissioners Court meeting, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said the opening was delayed to make sure Austin's hospitals have the staff they need before the field hospital is staffed.

Last week, the county's Alternate Health Authority Dr. Jason Pickett said resources were being stretched as area hospitals dealt with growing COVID-19 cases. He said there are no plans to run an intensive care unit inside the field hospital.

Instead, the care site will house lower-risk coronavirus patients to open up more hospital beds.

​​​​​"I don’t know if we’re going to take patients from the hospitals on day one of the alternate care site being open, but I know that we will be ready to do so," Pickett said.

Individual hospitals will have the final call when it comes to moving patients to the new site. The total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Austin area has plateaued recently.

On Monday, there were 43 COVID-19 hospital admissions in the Austin area. That brought the seven day-average for hospitalizations to about 66 — the lowest the average has been since July 1.

San Marcos CISD moves the first day of school to Sept. 8

San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District's reopening plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic closely mimic those of other districts in Hays County.

Superintendent Michael Cardona asked the Board of Trustees at Monday night's meeting to push back the first day of school to Sept. 8. And once the semester begins, the first four weeks of school to be virtual for everybody, with the possibility of an extension.

Cardona says the district will be ready to teach this fall. ​"I can tell you that we're more prepared than we were at the end of last year when we were all caught off guard. And I’m quite sure that we will do a much better job at the beginning of this year," Cardona said. "And so we ask our community to be patient."

Over the next two months, the district will be sending out surveys to parents on their preferred learning models. Cardona says the school has secured Chromebooks and iPads, and other technologies to make sure every student in the district has access to technology.

— Riane Roldan

UT Austin says it will have fans in attendance at football games this fall

UT Austin has announced it will move forward this fall with a 50% seating capacity for football games at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The school says it can properly space fans and allow all season ticket holders to see every home game. Athletic Director Chris Del Conte sent a note to season ticket holders that they can opt-out of going to 2020 games without losing their regular seats going into 2021.

The stadium holds about 100,000 people, although that figure was going to be reduced slightly this season because part of the stadium is undergoing renovation, the Associated Press reports.

The first game in Austin is scheduled for Sept. 5 against the University of South Florida.

Texas expects a $4.6 billion budget shortfall

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is estimating a $4.6 billion budget shortfall for the biennium ending in August of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic and drop in oil prices.

Last fall, Hegar projected the state would have a general revenue of more than $121 billion. But now, that estimate is closer to $110 billion.

That projection assumes that COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted before the end of the year and economic activity will slowly bounce back.

"It’s important to note that this revised estimate carries unprecedented uncertainty. We’re assuming the state will effectively manage the outbreak and that infection rates won’t overwhelm our health care system," Hegar said in a statement. "This estimate also assumes that restrictions on businesses and individuals will be lifted before the end of this calendar year and that economic activity will strengthen but not return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this biennium.”

The projection doesn't take into account state leaders’ call for a 5% spending reduction from state agencies. Hegar said he will provide an update in January.

AISD hosts virtual community conversations Wednesday and Thursday

The Austin Independent School District is hosting two virtual community conversations this week to preview what students can expect for the 2020-2021 school year.

The first conversation will discuss online learning and teaching at home. It will be hosted Wednesday morning from 9 until 10:30. Thursday's meeting will focus on students returning to campus after Labor Day. It'll run from noon until 1:30.

Families can tune in to both sessions on the district's Facebook page. The school district says the sessions will have close captioning and have Spanish interpretation. Questions can be submitted in advance here.

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What's happening statewide? Check out special coverage from KERA for North Texas, Houston Public MediaTexas Public Radio in San Antonio and Marfa Public Radio.

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